The construction of the Cromford Canal was authorised by Parliament in 1789. Its route was to be from Langley Mill to Codnor Park, and then through a tunnel to Butterley (passing directly beneath the Butterley Ironworks), then on to Ambergate and north up the Derwent valley via Whatstandwell to Cromford. William Jessop was appointed principal engineer, with Benjamin Outram as his assistant. The construction of the canal was not straightforward and the cost of land purchases, materials and labour greatly exceeded the original estimate. The canal, 14½ miles in length, finally opened to traffic in 1794. Its success was immediate, with coal and mineral proprietors building tramways connecting their collieries, ironstone mines and limestone quarries to wharves along the canal. It did experience some operating difficulties, however, one of the more serious of which was a shortage of water. Nevertheless, the canal was a financial success until the opening of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midland Junction railway. The canal company sold out to the railway in 1852 and the canal went into a slow decline until its final closure in 1944. It was taken over by the British Waterways Board; ownership was then transferred to Derbyshire County Council in 1974. Part of it has recently been restored. (1)
The Cromford Canal ran 23.3 kilometres from Cromford to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. The 10.5 kilometres of canal between Cromford and Ambergate which lie within the World Heritage Site was constructed in the early 1790s under the direction of William Jessop assisted by Benjamin Outram. The canal was intended as part of a through route to Manchester but it was not until the Cromford and High Peak Railway was constructed between 1824 and 1830 that this vision became a reality. The Cromford Canal promoters sought to unlock Derbyshire's immense mineral wealth, especially its limestone. Apart from the obvious advantages to Sir Richard Arkwright for his mills, he too saw the opportunity presented by exporting lime and sought a monopoly in this trade on the canal in return for which he was prepared to lend his name to the promoters of the canal project. Only when he was finally persuaded that such a monopoly would be against the law did he agree to give the canal scheme his energetic attention. He also agreed to sell most of his garden to the Canal Company to construct the Cromford Wharf. With his assistance the Canal Bill was steered through Parliament in the face of considerable opposition. The canal had a profound influence on the economic growth of central Derbyshire achieving a substantial outreach by means of its many wharfs and linking tramroads. Thus Belper, apparently bypassed by the canal, derived huge economic benefits from it. (2)
Despite the problems posed by the deepend channel and the infilled section, the Cromford Canal Society have plans in place to restore the section of canal to Langley Mill and the Pinxton arm of the canal which joins the main line of the canal at the eastern end of the reservoir. (3)
In 2002 the Friends of the Cromford Canal was formed to preserve what is left of the canal and to restore the remainder. The length from Cromford to Ambergate, in the care of Derbyshire County Council, is the best preserved and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are another 12 miles that are in need of restoration. (4)
Bibliographic reference: Turbutt, G. 1999. A History of Derbyshire. pp 1549-1550.
Unpublished document: Derwent Valley Mills (DVM) Nomination Steering Panel. 2000. Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage List Nomination Document. p 54.
Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 2011. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology: A Gazetteer of Sites, Part III, Borough of Amber Valley (second edition).
Unpublished document: Friends of the Cromford Canal. Friends of the Cromford Canal.
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Centred SK 4442 5105 (15507m by 9897m) (Approximate)
CROMFORD, DERBYSHIRE DALES, DERBYSHIRE
ALDERCAR AND LANGLEY MILL, AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE
CRICH, AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE
DETHICK, AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE
IRONVILLE, AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE
RIPLEY, AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE
SOMERCOTES, AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE
World Heritage Site
Derwent Valley Mills
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Record last edited
May 12 2021 12:23PM
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